Verdict corner: Is there a lasting solution for family disputes?

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New Delhi | Published: August 6, 2015 12:28:48 AM

Messy legal battles over family wealth, especially corporate India’s famous families, are not so uncommon.

Messy legal battles over family wealth, especially corporate India’s famous families, are not so uncommon. While various families have ruined themselves fighting in the courts, the judiciary is reluctant to enter into the paddle as it feels that the legal recourse for most ugly fights should come only after amicable options have been exhausted. While family settlements ensure amity and goodwill amongst the members, litigating in the courts is a time-consuming and expensive process, which neither guarantees a satisfactory resolution nor mends strained human relationships. India has seen some famous family fallouts.

The Shroff brothers dispute

This has been the latest, most-watched family dispute over the largest corporate law firms in the country, Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co. Shardul and Cyril Shroff, the country’s most high profile lawyer brothers and managing partners of the firm, recently ended their dispute by splitting the assets and agreed to independently carry on practising law from Mumbai and Delhi separately. Shardul, the elder of the two, based in Delhi, had filed a suit to prevent Mumbai-based Cyril from “intermeddling with” or receiving shares that belonged to their late mother Bharati Shroff, who had bequeathed the firm entirely to her eldest son. Both brothers had reposed faith on the Bombay HC-backed noted mediators—BN Srikrishna, Harish Salve and BN Kampani—to settle the case. The HC accepted the family settlement and the arbitral award, and disposed of the suit between the brothers.

The Singhania feud

Raivathari, Tarini, Rasaalika and Ananya—the four children of Vijaypat Singhania’s (chairman emeritus of Raymond Ltd) elder son Madhupati Singhania—moved the Bombay HC, challenging a “family settlement” their parents and grandfather entered into in 1998, whereby their parents had relinquished not only their rights but also those of their minor children’s over ancestral properties. Singhania’s grandchildren have claimed their rights on the Raymond brand, ancestral properties and real estate. Madhupati had severed ties with the family in December 1998 and moved to Singapore. Prior to that, Madhupati entered into a family arrangement, under which he relinquished his and his children’s rights to the family property. Vijaypat, in February, gifted his 37% stake in Raymond, worth almost R1,041 crore, to his younger son Gautam Hari Singhania. Vijaypat’s grandchildren through his estranged son Madhupati filed a case against their grandfather questioning the 1998 pact. However, Vijaypat has stated that his grandchildren’s claims have no merit as Madhupati had been compensated then.

The Yes Bank saga

A month ago, the Bombay HC ruled that Madhu Kapur, the widow of Yes Bank’s co-founder Ashok Kapur and the legal heir, has the right to jointly nominate directors to the board of the bank that her late husband founded along with current Yes Bank MD & CEO Rana Kapoor. Ashok was killed in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Madhu and her daughter Shagun Gogia had moved the HC in 2013 over her right of nominating directors to the board jointly. Madhu, who holds shares in the bank to the tune of 10.29% with her children, also wanted the Yes Bank board to accept the nomination of Shagun to the board, but this was rejected by the bank.

The Raheja battle of wills

Three months after real estate baron Gopal Raheja’s demise, the bitter dispute for his R11,000-crore estate reached the Bombay HC, with his two daughters—Sonali Arora and Sabita Raheja Narang—and estranged son Sandeep disputing on two different wills, one drawn up in January 2012 and the other few years earlier. It has been claimed that Raheja in his revised will had divided his stake in the K Raheja group equally between daughters and had left nothing for his son. Sandeep has moved the court to get a May 2007 will probated on the ground that this is the only genuine will by which the patriarch had bequeathed everything to him. Gopal had approached the HC in 2012, alleging that his son had denied him medical care and had accused Sandeep of trying to usurp his entire business consisting of 25 companies.

Hiranandani confrontation

Real estate tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani is facing legal trouble from his daughter Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala, who sought arbitration in London in 2009, claiming that her father and brother Darshan violated a 2006 family agreement. They are disputing over commercial rights to 28 real estate projects valued at R3,000 crore. While London-based Priya asked for compensation of around R1,400 crore, the father-son duo disputes the existence of any such pact. Instead, they have filed a counter-claim that the fight has resulted in huge business loss. They had earlier moved the Bombay HC to restrain Priya’s company, Hiranandani Living, from using the family name.

The Mafatlal issue

The dispute in the Mafatlal family over properties in South Mumbai and expensive paintings has hogged headlines for some time now. Well-known socialite Sheetal Mafatlal, the estranged wife of industrialist Atulya Mafatlal, had a theft complaint lodged against her in 2011 by the family for several missing paintings. After the dispute was resolved, the Bombay HC allowed Sheetal to retain the paintings, then valued at R50 crore. It began with Sheetal filing harassment charges against her mother-in-law Madhuri and brother-in-law Ajay.

The Elder Pharma battle

The family of Elder Pharmaceuticals’ founder Jagdish Saxena has been fighting in the courts for control of his personal and business assets. The legal battle started a year after Saxena’s death in 2013. Anuj, the younger son who heads Elder Healthcare, a part of the R1,800 crore Elder Group, is fighting with the rest of the family—his elder brother Alok, who is chairman and MD of Elder Pharmaceuticals, mother Sneh and sister Shalini. While Anuj has moved a petition for administration of the assets, his mother sought partition of assets in Bombay HC.

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